Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Choosing the right Classical music pieces for use in your project, part 2

This is a continuation of the article: Choosing the right classical music (Part 1) which you can read here.

In part one of this series we looked at a list of 10 Bombastic classical pieces. Those huge, thunderous anthems that would sound great as an accompaniment to epic visuals & graphics or deep sonorous voice overs.

But the beauty of classical music is that it is rich in dynamism. One moment loud & boisterous, the next wistful & melancholic. In part two we’re looking into the sensitive side of classical music with a list of 10 breath takingly beautiful pieces of classical music.

Part two: Beautiful Classical Pieces

So here’s a list of 10 stunners from the classical canon. Usages could include film and documentary scenes such as panning shots of natural beauty, moments of reflection, falling in love…Romantic visuals that would benefit from a touch of sheer understated class.

10. The Four Seasons (spring) - Vivaldi

Fresh & flowery, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s series of Baroque violin concertos inspired by the 18th Century Italian countryside. Vivaldi’s music has a high note count with plenty of gushing detail & colour and of all the Season’s, ‘Spring’ is over brimming with flamboyant Baroque fruitiness.

9. Flower Duet - Lakme

Highjacked (pardon the expression) by British Airways for a series of TV ads, ‘Flower Duet’ is a magnificent operatic aria performed by two female sopranos. The operatic voices bob and weave through a magical garden of soaring cellos & assorted strings like two beautiful swans. Tasteful, graceful, stylish and elegant.

8. Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor - Beethoven

Recognizable from a plethora of usages in contemporary film and TV, Piano Sonata No. 14 (AKA The Moonlight Sonata) takes you on a lilting journey with its ever shifting succession of solo piano chords. One moment somber and sincere the next enchanting and elegant, and as one of Beethoven’s most beautiful pieces, is more than worthy of a place in our list.

7. Peer Gynt (morning) - Edvard Grieg

Imbued with a sense of fresh optimism this dynamic aria builds from a fluttering flute into a euphoric orchestra as daybreak bursts through the morning mist. A Norwegian composer, Grieg even lived long enough to hear some of his compositions immortalized on record.

6. Messiah Halleluiah Chorus - Händel

In our lists of both bombastic and beautiful classical music, this one easily straddles both camps with its huge choirs, crashing cymbals & divine orchestration. Another Baroque composer, Handel is considered one of the classical elite having composed over 40 operas in the early 1800’s.

5. The Lark Ascending - Vaughn Williams

British composer Vaughn Williams’ most celebrated piece was inspired by a poem about a skylark. And as flutes and violins spiral skyward, the imagery of a bird in flight is synonymous with this elegant masterpiece. Melancholic, sad & breath takingly graceful.

4. Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Minor Prelude - Bach

Known to induce feelings of tearful ecstasy and abundant joy in most listeners, one must often contemplate…What is it about this continuous stream of solo cello notes that moves the human soul so profoundly?

3. Nimrod - Elgar

Among Elgar’s best known compositions are the orchestral works, Enigma Variations. Taken from that is the popular piece is Nimrod. With its angelic wind and swelling orchestral strings it surely ranks among one of classical music’s most compelling pieces.

2. Adagio for Strings - Barber

Radiating with angelic warmth, ‘Adagio’ tugs at the heartstrings with apparent ease as its wash of strings climb higher and higher towards divine absolution. Simply one of the most graceful & appealing classical pieces ever composed, it has been used to great effect in films as diverse and polar opposite as Platoon and The Elephant Man.

1. Ave Maria - Schubert

Yes, here we are at the top of the pile where I’m keen to point out that these pieces are in no particular order. Although Schubert’s Ave Maria is possibly the number one favourite when it comes to popularity. And continued cover versions of varying quality. It’s a stunningly sad yet uplifting operatic aria in its traditional arrangement. Although nowadays we’re treated to less sympathetic versions by the likes of BeyoncĂ© & Celine Dion!

OK, so there we have it. A list of 10 beautiful classical compositions in no particular order. And, of course, it’s all down to subjective taste. With so much wonderful classical music, I’m sure you could make up an infinite number of lists in the same category without including any of the above. In fact, here are five more that might just as easily have featured in the list.

  • The Swan (Le Cygne)
  • Sleeping Beauty op. 66
  • La Traviata Act 1 Prelude - Verdi
  • Jupiter (The Planets) - Holst
  • Gymnopedie No. 1 - Erik Satie

Well, here’s hoping that these lists will lead you on to finding some less well known pieces by these wondrous composers. And that this article will help with your decisions when choosing some beautiful classical music for your film, documentary or presentation. Good luck!

Classical Music at shockwave-sound stock music library:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Choosing the right Classical music pieces for use in your project, part 1

by Simon Power

If you are a filmmaker or production house looking for a recognizable hook or sound bed for a visual presentation, then classical music can be a tremendous asset. The Classics can be used to add weight and depth to your project, instantly giving it a classy air of sincerity. Or they can be included with a sprinkling of irony to add humor, gaiety and wit.

What’s more, a huge percentage of the public recognize many of the popular pieces instantly, as they have been used countless times on films, sporting events, TV shows and commercials. So that gives you an instant shortcut to a wide pallet of emotions and shared consciousness with your audience.

So that’s great, isn’t it?

Well, yes, but there remains a huge problem with classical music: Much of it is just plain inaccessible. Sure, you can recognize a piece of classical music, you can probably hum the first few lines. But when it comes to searching for the actual piece, you’re met with a frustrating & bewildering puzzle to unravel.

The first problem will be the title. Unlike popular music, the title will not always be representative of the emotion or imagery you get when listening to it. You may be looking for a piece that puts you in mind of a ‘Beautiful Sunrise’. But the piece turns out to be called ‘Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Minor BWV 1007 Prelude’.

Same with the composer. Not content with two names, most of them have three or four. And a few of those will be almost willfully unpronounceable. Of course, I’m being flippant, but you get the picture? Unless you’re classically trained you will find it awfully hard to get what you want when searching for classical music for your project.

So how can I find what I’m looking for?

Well, hopefully, these articles will help by offering a beacon of light to producers who are keen to explore the rich and diverse world of the classics. Each part will name & describe 10 popular classics with a particular theme. Many of the examples mentioned are out of copyright public domain pieces that are available for download at shockwave-sound.

So let’s kick off with some real biggies to get the ball rolling...

Part one: Bombastic Classic Anthems

Here’s a list of 10 rousing classical anthems. Uses could include war-like themes, colossal shows or cataclysmic events. They’re showy, impressive and somewhat grandiose pieces that take full advantage of the huge might of an entire orchestra.

10. Finlandia Op.26 No. 7 - Sibelius

Dark, impressive brassy chords full of impending doom from this Finnish composer who produced loads of good Wagnerian sounding stuff in the early 20th Century.

9. A Night on Bare Mountain - Mussorgsky

A track for the masterwork Pictures at an Exhibition, this frenzied, nightmarish romp sounds like someone left the gates of Hell open wide and the screaming banshees of Hades have just flown through.

8. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor Op. 125 Molto Vivace - Beethoven

A change of gear, but no less impressive, this is a joyous, extravagant string symphony filled with all the pomp & ceremony of a huge event or happening.

7. Gayaneh Suite No. 3: The Sabre Dance - Aram Khachaturian

Kyachaturian was a Russian composer which figures when you hear this Arminian workout complete with driving rhythm and loud, incessant woodwind and brass.
Archetypal Russian folk music played at break neck speed.

6. Toccata & Fugue in D Minor - Bach

its Judgment Day and Bach’s Fugue makes it sound like the entire majesty & weight of religion is crashing down around your ears. This is full on fire and brimstone and what’s more it has a MASSIVE organ!

5. Mars (The Planets) - Holst

Cheltenham born Holst was most famous for his orchestral suite, The Planets. A blinding collection of tunes that run the full gamut of human emotion. Mars makes it to this list for being arguably the most bombastic track with its Morse Code-like pulsing bass and apocalyptic lead lines. Its influence on modern film music is incalculable.

4. 1810 Overture - Tchaikovsky

Boy, these Russian composers like it big and the 1810 Overture is no exception. With its huge orchestration, bells and clashing cymbals, its sheer big-ness knows no bounds. And what’s more, any piece that includes the sounds of canon’s firing makes it into this list, so here it is at number 4.

Apocalypse Now used Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries"

3. Ride of the Valkyries - Wagner

Wagner is so cool, he even has his own expression named after him. ‘Wagnerian’ means big, powerful, domineering, full of drama and emotional intensity. And that about sums up ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, now famous of course for its inclusion in the chopper sequence in ‘Apocalypse Now’, this is a masterpiece of bombastic classical music from Mr. Hitler’s favourite composer.

2. Romeo & Juliet Op.64 Act 1: Dance of the Knights - Prokofiev

Recently highjacked for the UK version of ‘The Apprentice’, Dance of the Knights is a behemoth of classical music with orchestration that crashes in like the approaching footfalls of some giant monster. It lollops around with surprising grace before ending with some huge chords that are enough to induce feverish applause from any mortal human being on the planet.

1. Carmina Burana Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: No. 1 O Fortuna - Orff

Carmina Burana is a collection of 24 poems set to music by Carl Orff in 1936. The poems are from dramatic texts from the 11th, 12th and 13th Century that reflect the birth of an international European movement. Though you wouldn’t know that to listen to them as they were all written in Latin and a couple of other dead languages.

But no one really listens to the words of ‘O Fortuna’ (the intro to Carmina Burana.) You just get swept away by the power and majesty of the awesome music. The huge choirs, the incessant rhythms, the dark thunderous orchestration. Yep, in a list that’s all about high and mighty classical tunes, ‘O Fortuna’ from Carmina Burana is number one, because, in all truth, there’s no other place for it.

OK, so as always with charts there are lots and lots of choices that didn’t make it into the final list. And this is by no means meant to be a definitive countdown of bombastic classical tunes. In fact, there’re in no specific order and, after reading it, you can probably think of a hundred omissions and one’s that got away, or trampled in the stampede.

So at least let me give you these. Five more tunes that were considered for the list, but didn’t quite make the final 10.

  • Brandenburg Concerto - Bach
  • Radetzky March - Strauss
  • The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - Handel
  • Entry of the Gladiators Op.68 - Fucik
  • Symphony No. 40 in G Minor - Mozart

Who knows, maybe this list will lead you on to finding some less well known pieces by these awesome composers. Either way, I hope it will help with your decisions when choosing some rousing classical music for your film, documentary or presentation.

Royalty Free Classical Music can be searched and licensed at

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Some older tracks being pruned (removed) today

Today we removed some old tracks from our catalogue. If you come searching for these tracks, they will not appear in search results any more.

If you need to license a track that has been removed, you can still do so! We just deal with it manually and set up the purchase for you "by hand", since you can't buy it through the online shopping cart any more. To enquire about this, contact us via our contact page.

Why remove tracks? It has to do with trying to keep the music fresh and up to date. I remember when we first set out to start up, back in the early weeks of year 2000. We were checking out existing stock music libraries and stock music sites, and their music sounded really outdated. Clearly, they had been in business maybe 15-20 years, and - unsurprisingly - their music sounded 15-20 years old!

I remember thinking clearly to ourselves at that point, that we would not allow that to happen to Shockwave-Sound. Unlike other stock music sites, we would actually remove old tracks, so that the overall sound of our library was always fresh and new.

We still add new tracks at a much higher rate than we remove old one - so our catalogue is increasing in size all the time. I think this just makes it even more important to get rid of some old tracks now and then.

What are the criteria for choosing which tracks to remove? Well, it's a subjective decision based on each track in the end, but if a track has been on our site for more than 6 years and made only 0-1 sales over the past 12 months, then that track is usually selected for "pruning" (removing).

The following tracks were pruned today:
  • At First Glance
  • Brand New Delhi
  • Byte Size
  • Chit Chat
  • Cruisin
  • Crunked Up
  • Dark Sound
  • De Profundis
  • Dot Co Dot UK
  • E Motion
  • EZ Street
  • First Contact
  • Flamenco
  • Flight
  • Funked Up
  • Hope For Peace
  • In D Pocket
  • Its a Lurve Thang
  • Jubilate Deo
  • LA Nights
  • Leisuretime
  • Lets Talk
  • Lucky Thirteen
  • Manuels Party
  • Mission Implausible
  • New Strides
  • Nicole
  • Nightflight
  • Numbafive
  • Ostinato in D
  • Present Tense
  • Redbeard the Pirate
  • Rio Rio
  • Sahara
  • Sands Of Time
  • Sautille
  • Showtime
  • Sierra Martes
  • Sky Hooks
  • Snake Hips
  • Snapback
  • So Piano
  • Something in the Mud
  • Space Is Information
  • Steel Dawn
  • Still Waters
  • Summer Vistas
  • Summer Vistas
  • Sunshine
  • Superhighway
  • Taste The Space
  • The Embalm
  • The Fall
  • The Sicilian Job
  • Triste
  • Truth
  • Under Attack
  • Undercurrent